Specialty crops, organics to receive $66.5 million

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture will make available $66.5 million in funding for research and extension activities designed to address the needs of America’s specialty crop industry and to solve organic agricultural production issues, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said March 10.

The Specialty Crop Research Initiative and the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative will fund the grants. The 2014 farm bill made the funds available.

“Investments in projects to help organic producers and specialty crop growers are an important way U.S.D.A. helps American farmers establish new business opportunities throughout the country,” Mr. Vilsack said. “The projects funded by these programs will build on U.S.D.A. support for local and regional markets, and strengthening local markets grows the rural economy while improving access to healthy food for millions of children and supplying farmers markets, restaurants and other businesses with fresh, high quality fruits and vegetables.”

The U.S.D.A. defined specialty crops as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. The funded projects will address the spectrum of specialty crops production, including researching plant genetics to improve crop characteristics, identifying and addressing threats from pests and diseases, improving production and profitability, developing new production innovations and technologies, and developing methods to respond to food safety hazards.

S.C.R.I. pre-applications are due March 30. Full applications are due July 2.

The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative funds research, education and extension projects that enhance the ability of producers and processors who already have adopted organic standards to grow and market organic products. Priority concerns include biological, physical and social sciences, including economics.

A notification of Intent to Submit an Application to the O.R.E.I. is due April 1. Full applications are due April 30.
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